University of California, Irvine
Tracking Children’s Speech and Language Development: A Pilot Study Using Interactive Mobile Storytime
Early identification and intervention of speech and language delays in children contribute to better communication and literacy skills for school readiness and are protective against behavioural and mental health problems, as well as academic failure. Speech and language delay affects 5 to 12 percent of US children between the ages of 2 and 5 years. Identification of these delays in primary care settings can be inefficient and is particularly challenging for children with low medical resources. These issues can lead to delays in treatment, resulting in detrimental effects on the child’s development. With more children growing up using digital devices on a regular basis, mobile applications offer unique opportunities to identify and monitor their development. Despite this, there are few cost-effective, technology-mediated means of assessment for communication impairments in children. Shared storybook reading, an evidence-based intervention technique, is a common activity used by many families and speech therapists for improving language and literacy skills in children. While e-books for children have become ubiquitous, research that has attempted to use digital storybooks to mediate screening and monitoring of speech and language skills remains limited.
In collaboration with a digital health startup company Cognoa, we designed “Storytime,” an interactive video that uses a virtual avatar for storytelling to mediate autonomous speech and language assessment between children and parents in the home setting. Our pilot study collects audio and video recordings of 76 pairs of parents and children ages 4 to 6 years old, with and without communication impairments. Children’s speech and language production is manually transcribed and analyzed to evaluate how they engage with and respond to this mobile-mediated interaction. In this talk, we present the initial findings from this study and discuss the implications on advancing existing research methods and participatory design between academic and industry collaborators.
Yao Du is a doctoral student in Informatics at the University of California, Irvine, working with advisor Katie Salen Tekinbas. Her research lies at the intersections of mobile HCI, instructional technology, and assistive technology, and her work focuses on designing and evaluating interactive tools for children with communication impairments, their caregivers, and healthcare providers. She has previously worked as a bilingual Mandarin-English speech-language pathologist in both educational and medical settings (e.g., schools, hospitals, clinics) with children and adults with disabilities.